PROVO — With Stanford holding a 17-15 lead midway through the third set of the MPSF men's volleyball championship Saturday night, BYU coach Chris McGown had a feeling wash over him.
Despite the deficit and the Cardinal not backing down, McGown knew his squad had the match well in hand.
“The overwhelming feeling I had the entire time was, ‘Hey, we got this,’” McGown said. “Somewhere along the way we’re going to put together a little run, we’re going to score some points, we’re going to turn something on defense. And I just kept feeling (it).”
Turns out he was right.
The Cougars closed out the match, and the MPSF championship, with a 10-5 run to take the final set 25-22 and the match in three sets (25-23, 25-22, 25-22).
Once again, it was tournament MVP Taylor Sander leading the charge with several kills and even some cheerleading to ignite the run and finish the Cardinal off.
The senior All-American was admittedly emotional during the match’s latter stages and confidently implored the crowd to rise to its feet for the final stretch.
As usual, the packed Smith Fieldhouse crowd — all 4,367 of them — responded and carried the Cougars home to their second-straight MPSF championship and accompanying automatic berth in the NCAA championships.
“It was just fun having that place as loud as it can be for our last points ever played in there,” Sander said.
Sander wanted to close things out with a well-placed kill, and had his opportunities, but Stanford typically refused to go down easy. Two spectacular digs were made on consecutive kill attempts from Sander, but an over-the-net call on the Cardinal scored BYU its 25th point of the third set and ended the match.
Sander finished with a team-high 15 kills on a .324 hitting percentage for his last hurrah at the Smith Fieldhouse in the type of environment that brought him to BYU in the first place.
“The first (match) here was packed and the last match I played here was packed,” Sander said. “It’s just something I’ll remember forever.”
With the sweep over Stanford, BYU accomplished a rare feat of not dropping a single set in the MPSF tournament.
Players and coaches were quick to credit the crowd first, but also BYU's serve.
“I think we controlled the match from the service line — all three matches — and that was the difference,” McGown said. “Those teams that were able to do some things offensively weren’t able to do them when they were here because we served so well.”
BYU produced a .892 service percentage and six aces to Stanford's .750 and solo ace, providing a decisive edge in the match. Devin Young and Tim Dobbert added six kills apiece, with Young providing a team-high four blocks.
Stanford was led by Brian Cook, who scored a game-high 17 kills.
Overall BYU was impressed with how Stanford battled throughout.
“For them to battle like they did against this crowd is incredible,” Young said. “We kept expecting them to fold. ... It was really tough to put them away, but luckily we were able to come out on top tonight.”
BYU will now head to the NCAA championships in Chicago. The event will feature six teams and begin May 1.
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